From: Emma Graham-Harrison -Reuters
Published November 9, 2007 08:34 AM

China attacks "subjective" IEA energy outlook

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing officials attacked an International Energy Agency report that said China would soon be the world's top energy user and carbon dioxide emitter, calling it subjective and politically ill-judged.

The strong criticism on Friday of the report, which highlights the impact of rapid growth in China and India, followed a warning from the head of the IEA that time is running out to solve the planet's climate and energy challenges.

The widely quoted World Energy Outlook said this week that China would overtake the United States as the top energy user shortly after 2010, and this year is set to be the largest emitter of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

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But Wang Siqiang, vice-director of the country's energy office, said on Friday the report was based on mistaken assumptions and at odds with some of Beijing's own forecasts.

"Some of the assumptions are quite subjective," Wang told a news conference to launch the report in China.

"I hope that for future analyses they could set up different assumptions and make it closer to reality," he said, adding that research in the energy area should be "based on facts."

IEA chief economist and author of the report, Fatih Birol, said earlier this week that it was the gloomiest ever -- with warnings of a possible oil supply crunch and a high price tag on reining in global warning.

"Actions, decisions should be taken now," IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka said on Friday. "The primary scarcity facing the planet is not natural resources, or money, but time."

But Li Junfeng, from the government's Energy Research Institute, said that the IEA -- energy advisor to 26 industrialized nations -- had not considered how its findings might be interpreted.

"It lacks a political background...I am concerned that such a report may be used for other purposes by some people," Li said.

WESTERN EYES

Neither Wang nor Li clarified exactly which portions of the over 600-page report they disagreed with.

But officials reject the view that China's growing demand has helped fuel a rally in crude oil prices to near $100 a barrel and might resent the publication of a prediction that its energy consumption will soon overtake that of the United States.

It also objects to a growing focus on its greenhouse gas emissions, because on a per capita basis it produces a fraction of Western levels -- although the report also included per person calculations and looked at how much of China's emissions came from manufacturing products that were then exported.

"The results of looking at developing countries like China and India through Western eyes, through developed country eyes, are different from the results of looking at China or India through the eyes of a developing country," Wang said.

But both China and the IEA said they were keen to continue working together.

"The IEA's results cannot be entirely accurate, but even if the IEA's results were entirely wrong it is still helpful that they have done this report," Wang said.

"It is natural that we have contradictions and differences, that we can only resolve through further cooperation," he added.

Tanaka, appearing unperturbed by the volley of criticism, agreed. "To have a better relationship with China is one of my highest priorities," he said.

"I want to safeguard and develop this relationship, hopefully paving the way...to the ultimate objective of their future membership to our organization."

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